Thursday, December 30, 2010

More’s Code

dit dah dah dah / dah dit dah

Oops, not Morse Code—More’s Code, that sainted friend of Henry VIII who wrote the “History of King Richard the Third” that ultimately accused Richard of murdering his nephews. But this so-called history is rife with errors and contradictions--points that are easily verified, that an educated man such as More would have known to be incorrect and points that state one position in the first sentence, only to be contradicted in the next. But it has been used as proof of Richard’s guilt among many traditionalists who hold the view that Richard III would have murdered his nephews.

Although true that Thomas More was beatified in 1886 and then canonized in 1935, does that mean he could not have written a piece that was meant to be satire? He began the “History” around 1512 and stopped before completing it by 1518. He did not have it published. His nephew, William Rastell was the first to publish it in 1557, well after More had been executed in 1535. The quoted text below is taken from this publication available on the Richard III Society, American Branch website.

The first glaring error is found in the opening line of the history: “[K]Yng Edwarde of that name the fowrth, after that hee hadde lyued fiftie and three yeares, seven monethes, and five dayes,..., dyed at Westmynster the nynth daye of Aprill,...” Edward IV was born on 28 April 1442, which means that he was about three weeks shy of his forty-first birthday, not fifty-three and change. While the common medieval citizen might not have known how old Edward IV was when he died, it was in the records and those people with whom More might have shared this text would almost certainly have known the age More gave was incorrect.

Although there are no extant contemporary reports that Richard III was physically deformed (Richard was in fact a soldier who fought in battles in full armor) More described him as: “...little of stature, ill fetured of limmes, croke backed, his left shoulder much higher then his right....” This is a very clever combination of using what is verifiable—contemporary chroniclers described Richard as slight of stature—with elements that are made up. Certainly, the physical deformities that More attributed would have been noted by contemporary chroniclers, especially in light of Richard’s military prowess.

Then, why should we believe that two men who More claimed Richard had ordered to murder the princes had been able to bury them undiscovered under a stone staircase in one night in a place bustling with people, and then to later remove them and rebury them in consecrated ground. That people believe the skeletons found in 1674 during the tower renovation are those of the princes based on More’s work stretches credulity to the breaking point. Because if More had been factual instead of just spinning a tale, the bones would not have been found there and both Henry VIII and his father Henry VII would have known where the princes remains were. If More had been correct, they were not under the White Tower stairs.

I think the opening salvo of giving an incorrect age at time of death for Edward IV leaps out as a warning to the readers that this work should not be taken seriously. Could it be that it was his code for j/k (just kidding)? Or as Morse would have telegraphed it: dit dah dah dah / dah dit dah.

Encyclopædia Britannica article on William Rastell.

More, Thomas. The History of King Richard III.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A plea to recycle electronic equipment responsibly

One of my favorite radio shows is “Fresh Air” hosted by Terry Gross. She broadcasts out of the public radio station, WHYY in Philadelphia. I listen to Fresh Air on my local public radio station, WNPR. On December 22, 2010, Gross interviewed Jim Puckett, executive director of the Basal Action Network about the issue of properly recycling electronic equipment such as cell phones, computers, TV’s, etc. I’ve always known that these devices contain toxic materials and have in the past, tried to properly recycle them. The cell phones are easy as they can be turned into centers where they are redistributed to people in need of a cell phone for emergency use. For the rest, I’ve brought them to a retailer where I pay $10/item so that these items are responsibly recycled. However, after listening to this broadcast about what happens to electronic waste, I’m not so sure that I’m accomplishing my goal.

Much of this waste is shipped to countries such as China and Nigeria where the waste is dumped and then the valuable material is scavenged from the waste using dirty and unsafe methods, such as burning the materials so that the salvageable metal is left. The toxins pollute the air and water. The people working in these places, often children, have to breathe the poisoned air.

I think it’s time we stopped sweeping the dirt under the rug and recycled responsibly.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Time Travel in Fiction

Laura Vosika, a fellow time travel, historical fiction author invited me to submit an article on using time travel in fiction, which was published last September on her Blue Bells Trilogy blog. Thank you Laura!

Time Travel in Fiction:

Ever since I read, and reread A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain when I was but a girl of ten, I’ve loved time travel fiction, for many reasons, not the least of which is because one can examine culture and technology with alien eyes.

One point of fascination for me is the mechanism the author uses to get the time traveler from his or her now to the past or the future. To get his Connecticut Yankee into the past, Mark Twain simply had his hero’s head bonked and when the man came to, he was in the sixth-century. When I read it as a child of ten, I didn’t know that sixth-century English would not be recognizable to a nineteenth-century American, nor did I fully appreciate the laws of conservation of mass and energy, so I was able to enjoy the book and imagine myself in King Arthur’s court.

Authors use a variety of literary devices to get their character from one time to another. Many use natural objects or phenomena such as the “standing stones” in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. Other authors such as H.G. Welles and Michael Crichton have “invented” devices that would enable time travel. Although I fall into the latter category in that I created a device that I call a Quantum Displacement Engine, I don’t go into any great detail as to how it might work. I am aware that there are some current theories that involve quantum mechanics that might point to how time travel might be accomplished, but this aspect is at its most nascent phase. I used time travel to enable the story that I wanted to tell.

Another consideration of time travel is that the Earth, our Solar System, the galaxy, and our universe are themselves all traveling through space at incredibly high speeds. So for anyone to go into the past to a specific point on this planet, would require knowing where the Earth was in space at that time. I haven’t read any time travel novels that even hint this might need to be solved. In addition, I haven’t read any that compensate for the laws of conservation of mass and energy. I have tried to do this in my novel, and have used the laws of conservation as a plot point.

Even though my inner-geek not only made me consider the scientific considerations and the improbabilities of time travel, I do agree that novels that don’t try to cover the science, or even give it a nod, are worth reading. It is up to the skill of the author to convince the reader to suspend disbelief, regardless of what mechanism the writer chooses to use.

In This Time, my novel about Richard III in the twenty-first century, I was interested in the attitudinal and cultural differences between fifteenth-century England and twenty-first century America. One of the first challenges Richard would face was to understand today’s English. Many of the words that Richard would have commonly used, are today not currently used or have changed meaning. For example, if we use the word corpse, we are referring to a dead body. Not so in Richard’s time. Then, a corpse was a living body (from the Latin, corpus). Interestingly, I learned that the English spoken then was more like what we can still hear in some isolated areas of the American Appalachians, which is close in sound and pronunciation to sixteenth-century English.

While forks existed in Richard’s time, they were used primarily in kitchens. When served, meats were cut up into bite-sized pieces that could be picked up with ones fingers or with the point of a knife and then dipped into a sop (sauce) before ingesting.

Even though the poor didn’t have access to frequent baths in Richard’s time, the wealthy (including a burgeoning middle class), not only bathed regularly, but would often travel with their tubs. Some baths in castles were fed by pipes and fitted with spigots as early as the twelfth-century.

Religion was a large presence in every day life. This was before the reformation, so the state religion was Catholic. Richard, like many of his peers, kept a book of hours for daily prayers, and for prayers of special occasions. Religious tolerance was low, if non existent—the Jews having been expelled from England in 1290. While the last crusade had ended shortly after the expulsion of the Jews, most Christian leaders saw the Turks and the Muslims as a great threat. Richard was no exception. However, Richard was the first English king to knight a converted Jew (Edward Brampton in 1484), so I thought that maybe he was a little more tolerant than your average fifteenth-century king. Bearing these factors in mind, I tried to imagine what his reaction would have been to a country where all the leaders, national and local are elected, where most citizens have the right to vote in these elections, and where there is no state religion and everyone is free to choose how and whether to worship or not.

Time travel gave me an opportunity to not only look at these differences between now and the past, but by my bringing Richard into this time, I was able to see the world today through my main character’s eyes. I hope the people who have read or are going to read my book will experience the same.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Proper protocol on hugging a baby :-)

Sorry for not posting for so long, but my excuse this time is that I'm working on the edits for Loyalty Binds Me, the sequel to This Time. So I have to thank my cousin for sending sharing this delightful manual: Instructions for Properly Hugging a Baby.


Friday, October 8, 2010

Review: VEIL OF LIES by Jeri Westerson

Veil of Lies by Jeri Westerson
Published 2008 by St. Martin’s Minotaur, New York

Veil of Lies: A Medieval Noir is Jeri Westerson’s debut novel featuring Crispin Guest; a medieval tec of the Sam Spade ilk. Originally from nobility with land, wealth, and a promising future, he loses it all to a rash and treasonous act against King Richard II. Although lucky to be alive, he was degraded and left with nothing but the clothes on his back.

Though literate, Crispin doesn’t have the skills for most employment. But he has a knack for finding things and develops a reputation as “The Tracker.” He contracts his services for six pence per day, but rarely has two farthings to rub together. At the novel’s start, we find him in debt, owing his landlord, the butcher, and the couple who befriended him, pub owners who are willing to maintain a running tab. He is summoned to the manor of Nicholas Walcote, a wealthy cloth merchant who wants to hire Crispin to spy on his wife, who Nicholas suspects of infidelity. Crispin is loath to take the job, and even though his fee is the only thing between him and supper, he turns it down.

However, Nicholas would not be so easily dismissed, and what ensues is a tale of loyalty, murder, love, and international intrigue that stretches from England to Italy. At its heart is a relic—a medieval lie detector, the Mandyllon or Veronica from the Latin: vera icona, true image. Through his investigation, Crispin not only discovers his quarry, but also learns a good deal about himself, and he is not altogether pleased.

Westerson wastes no words bringing the characters to life in a fourteenth-century London that the reader can not only see in the mind’s eye, but hear, feel, and smell as well. This book should appeal to readers who enjoy a medieval setting, mystery, and the hardboiled detective that is Crispin Guest. For me, the best thing is that there are more novels in the works. The next, Serpent in the Thorns, is currently available, and the third, The Demon’s Parchment, will be available this month. Happily, there are more to come, as I know this is one series that I’ll want to keep reading.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Where can I find this book?

We all know how to find a book that we'd like to read, either to buy or to borrow--right? Not exactly. Depending on where one lives, this can be a challenge to find even the more popular books, because of distribution considerations, further complicated by high shipping charges. This can even be the case with ebooks, as not all countries have access. When I first published This Time, I was thrilled to see it appear in all the Amazons. Still, for those who don't live in an "Amazon country" (Australia is an example), getting my book from Amazon meant paying exorbitant shipping fees. It was, in fact, fellow Ricardians (people interested in restoring Richard III's good name) who pointed me to alternative book distributors. So, here's a list of places, besides the usual suspects such as Amazon, to buy and find books no matter where you live.

Print Books:
Buy: Better World Books and The Book Depository
Find: Google Books (will also search libraries); AddAll; Bookfinder

Buy & Free: Smashwords; Digital Books; Project Gutenberg; Google Books; Internet Archive
Find: AddAll Ebooks

I'm sure this list is not comprehensive. If you know of other resources, please let us know.

And let us not forget about a great resource--the local library. Since I live in the USA, I do have ready access to Amazon, B&N, etc., but the cost of some research material can be quite high, so I relied on my library to obtain these books through the inter-library loan (ILL) system. ILL gave me access to books from public and university libraries from all over the US. I can't say enough good about the libraries and our librarians.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Book Review: The Broken Sword

The Broken Sword by Rhoda Edwards
Published 1976 by Doubleday & Company, Garden City, New York
(UK title: Some Touch of Pity)

The Broken Sword: A Novel of the Reign of Richard III by Rhoda Edwards is among the best fictional accounts of the late maligned king that I have read. It covers the last two years of Richard’s life, from shortly before he discovered his brother, Edward IV, had died and named him protector of his son Edward V, to his tragic defeat two years later after having suffered the deaths of his only legitimate son and of his wife of twelve years. We get a real sense of his character and the difficulties he had to deal with during his rule.

Edwards shows us the king from the eyes of several people who were important to him in some way, from his own view point, and from Robert Bolman, the clerk Richard promoted based solely on merit—a truly unique act of those times. Even though this two year period was presented from multiple view points, Edwards gave each a unique voice.

I found the chapters told by Richard’s wife, Anne Neville, his close friend and ally, Francis Lovell, and his physician, Dr. William Hobbes especially poignant. In these chapters we see Richard at the height of his powers and personal happiness and at his most vulnerable and at the depths of his emotional agony.

One point that had puzzled me was why Richard rushed into that last fateful battle where he lost his life and subsequently, his reputation. Edwards shows us Richard was among other things, under fiscal pressure to not delay the battle. The treasury was still depleted and not unlike affairs today, he needed money to govern. Had he pushed the battle back to when he could have been assured of the necessary troops, he risked not having the capital to pay for them. One point Edwards developed that I particularly liked was how Richard had been aware of the Stanleys’ potential betrayal, but that he had approached their “fence sitting” pragmatically.

There were a few expository paragraphs, more so near the beginning of the book, interrupting the narrative flow that Edwards had otherwise so beautifully crafted. I would have preferred it if those parts had been handled through author’s notes at the end.

Ordinarily, I don’t recommend fiction as a reference for historical facts, since to get at what the author interprets as an emotional or larger truth, the writer might decide to “bend” a few facts. In this instance, I take exception. Not only did Edwards not take any license with the facts, but I feel she did find the larger truth. This book stands equally with the other oft touted Ricardian classics—Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey and Sunne in Splendour by Sharon Kay Penman.

The Broken Sword is no longer in print. Used copies are available.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Patrol Cats

I was reminded of a pair of cats that I “rescued” while reading Sharon Kay Penman’s blog post: Shadow and Bambi. Shadow is a white Alsatian shepherd that Penman rescued a few weeks ago, and from all reports he is absolutely blossoming under her loving care.

Anyhoo, back in the early 1980s, I had bought a three family house in Hartford, Connecticut and shortly after getting settled into my second floor apartment and having filled the other two apartments with tenants, I discovered some mouse droppings in the cellar. I already had two dogs (a golden retriever mix and a Welsh terrier) and two small indoor cats. I reckoned that my two kitties wouldn’t be able to handle the mice, and my dogs were too goofy to do it, so I went to the pound to get a mouser. I got there a little early and while I was waiting to enter, a woman came in with two rather large, beautiful cats. Her children had developed allergies to cats, and she couldn’t keep her beloved felines. They never saw the inside of the pound.

The first floor tenants were students at Trinity College and they immediately took to the cats. It was a great arrangement—the cats dispensed with the mice and patrolled the perimeter making sure no more entered. The students were thrilled to have cats around, and the cats integrated themselves into the house so quickly that it was like they had always been there. They took to my dogs instantly. They’d walk with me when I walked the dogs; dashing in front of the pups and then throwing themselves on their backs to get attention. When the dogs sidestepped their bodies, the cats would leap up, dash in front and repeat the process.

The students ended up taking care of the cats most of the time. I’d get their food and took care of the annual vet visits.

The students eventually graduated and I saw how attached one in particular had become to them, so I offered them to her, as they were really her cats at that point. She wanted them, but she was moving to Switzerland, so there were some complications. But we worked everything out and they spent their remaining years living somewhere outside of Geneva.

I wish all animal stories could end as happily as this one did.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

On the princes surviving Richard III

Despite Richard III’s good governance and numerous accomplishments as Lord of the North for his brother, Edward IV’s proxy and as England’s king for just over two years (June 26, 1483 to August 22, 1485), Richard has come to us as the evil uncle who, to gain the crown, murdered his nephews and ruled with a tyrannical grip. While the fate of the princes remains a mystery to this day, the evidence of what manner of ruler and man he was belies this impression. For example, upon taking the crown, Richard reformed the laws to ensure the right to a qualified jury and right of the accused to bail writing, “The law shall cease to be an instrument of oppression and extortion.” And yet, his reputation seems to have been irrevocably stained by his supposed murder of his brother’s two boys, Edward V and Richard of York.

Most Ricardians, and I among them, would like to prove that Richard didn’t have the princes killed, or better still, that they weren’t killed. Unfortunately, any forensic evidence has long disappeared, so we must rely on contemporary reports, secondary sources, and logical deduction to come to some reasonable conclusions. Here’s my stab on why I think that Richard didn’t have the princes killed, and that they survived him.

Among other Ricardians, I maintain that if Richard had ordered that the boys be killed, he would have made their demise public. Keeping it secret would have done him no good. If the bodies were mutilated in some way that was obvious, I believe he would have accused whoever he had to of murder and had them quickly executed. That would have taken care of the "problem" for good. To me, the main reason that makes sense considering his silence and that the living royal bastards were not paraded around from time to time is that he secured them from potential harm and abduction and had to keep their whereabouts secret.

On August 9, 1483, Richard learned of a failed conspiracy to remove the princes from their apartments in the Tower by John Welles, Margaret Beaufort’s half brother (Margaret Beaufort was Henry Tudor’s mother and Lord Thomas Stanley’s wife.) Annette Carson points out in Richard III: The Maligned King that if Richard had already had the boys killed and had not as yet said anything about it, then this was a perfect opportunity to reveal the bodies, accuse, and then convict Welles of their murder. Since this didn’t transpire, I must conclude that Edward and Richard were alive and in London then.

Shortly after the failed plot to abduct the princes, I think Richard had them removed to separate and what he thought were safe places. I think Richard III assigned one of his trusted “sergeants”, possibly Tyrrell, to remove Edward V to Ireland and for another, likely Edward Brampton, to remove Richard to his home in Portugal. (More on Brampton later.)

Once the boys "disappeared" Richard risked the rumors that the boys had been murdered. In October of 1483, Richard defeated a rebellion whose initial purpose was to restore Edward V to the throne, but by mid-September, the rebels had switched their support to Henry Tudor when rumors spread that Edward V was dead. Around that time, Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham gave his support to the rebellion and it’s sometimes referred to as Buckingham’s rebellion. When he became king, Richard had made Buckingham England’s Constable, and as late as August 27, 1483, Richard III signed the final warrant for Buckingham to enter his Bohun inheritance (that had been denied to him by Edward IV). There is some speculation that if the princes were killed, that Buckingham was involved. However, Richard had later learned of Buckingham’s treachery and had executed him for treason when he put down the rebellion, the princes were probably alive at that time because Richard could have easily pinned the murder on his former ally and constable.

One point that is often overlooked when discussing the mystery of Edward IV’s boys is that there was a third prince—George’s son Edward, Earl of Warwick whose fate is known. George, Duke of Clarence was married to Isabel Neville, sister to Anne, Richard’s wife. Isabel died just over a year before Clarence was executed for treason and their children were attainted. Edward was no longer eligible to inherit title. Without this impediment, the crown would have gone to Clarence’s son, not Richard since George, had he survived Edward IV, would have been next in line after Edward IV’s boys.* After Edward IV died, Richard took George’s children into his household and placed them at Sheriff Hutton where Edward of Warwick and his sister, Margaret lived with the other children. When Henry Tudor defeated Richard, he imprisoned Edward in the tower, and eventually had him (and Perkin Warbec) executed in 1499. Interestingly, if Warbec had in fact been Richard of York, then it was Henry VII and not Richard III who executed two of the three princes. On a side note, in 1541 Henry VII’s son, Henry VIII executed Edward of Warwick’s sister, Margaret Pole, who by then was nearly sixty-eight.

The Battle of Stoke, which is generally thought to have been the last battle of the Wars of the Roses, had an obvious impostor at its head in the form of a ten year-old boy who Henry VII placed in his kitchens and gave the name of Lambert Simnel. However, Margaret of Burgundy organized and funded the rebellion that failed at Stoke in 1487, which I doubt that she would have done for an impostor at its inception. I think that Edward V was still alive while Stoke was being planned but that he died too close to the battle for it to have been called off. Another possibility is that Edward V was killed in that battle and that Henry VII put Lambert Simnel in as an impostor. Later, Margaret supported the man who claimed to be Richard of York, who Henry VII executed as Perkin Warbec. Margaret of Burgundy was one of the nobles who believed he was Richard of York Would she have supported someone who she knew to be an impostor? Most accounts of Warbec indicated that he spoke perfect English and was knowledgeable of Edward IV’s court. While not absolute proof that he was Edward’s son as he claimed, it does add circumstantial evidence in his favor.

A factor that I think adds to the circumstantial evidence that at least Richard of York survived Richard III is Richard's generous rewards to Edward Brampton, a converted Jew who first entered into Edward IV's service and then Richard's. In addition to monetary rewards, Richard knighted Brampton, the first English monarch to knight a converso. I think Richard III had Brampton take Richard of York into his care and rewarded Brampton for his loyalty and support. (In his confession that he was not Richard of York, Warbec referred to the time he spent in Brampton’s household.)

Therefore, because of the circumstantial and documentary evidence, and by my application of Occam's razor, I think it likely that the princes survived Richard and he got them out of the country to safe places.

*By the 1484 Act of Parliament, Titulus Regius named Edward of Warwick ineligible: “ an Acte made in the fame Parliament, George Duc of Clarence, Brother to the faid King Edward nowe deceffed, was convicted and atteinted of High Treafon; as in the fame Acte is conteigned more at large. Bicaufe and by reafon wherof, all the Iffue of the faid George, was and is difhabled and barred of all Right and Clayme, that in any wife they might have or chalenge by Enheritance, to the Crown and Dignite Roiall of this Reame, by the auncien Lawe and Cuftome of this fame Reame.”


1. Carson, Annette. Richard III: The Maligned King. Second Edition. The History Press. 2009.
2. Fields, Bertram. Royal Blood: Richard III and the Mystery of the Princes. First Perennial Edition. New York. Regan Books, an Imprint of Harper Collins Publishers. 2000
3. Kendall, Paul Murray. Richard the Third. Book of the Month Club Edition. New York. W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. 1996.
4. Wroe, Ann. The Perfect Prince: the Mystery of Perkin Warbeck and his Quest for the Throne of England. New York. Random House. 2003.
5. Titulus Regius. From the 1484 Parliament of Richard III reproduced on The Richard III Society, American Branch website.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sequel Update

First, my apologies for being so slack about updating Random Thoughts. I do have some news—I’m getting Loyalty Binds Me, the sequel to This Time ready to send to my copy editor.

Loyalty Binds Me starts a year after the first book ends, two years after Richard arrives in the 21st-century. Even though this continues Richard’s story in our time, it can be read without having read the first book. I don’t appreciate cliff-hangers at the end of books that I read, so I would not subject my readers to that in my work.

One of Richard’s mottos was loyaulte me lie, which translates to loyalty binds me. He would sign it with his name both on personal correspondence and on official documents. For Richard it seemed, it was more than a motto, but a code by which he lived.

My projected schedule for the sequel is to send it to my copy editor by mid-September, with a publish date around mid-November.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

"This Time" got a book award

Here's a photo of me when I received the award--I'm the one on the left with the goofy smile. Nearly a year ago, I submitted my novel to the Indie Book Awards for General Fiction/Novel category and although the submission was always in the back of my mind, I sort of forgot about it. It turned into a wonderful surprise to receive an email from the Indie Book Awards that This Time was one of the finalists. The Indie Book Awards included an invitation to an awards cocktail reception at the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan. I almost didn't go, but thankfully, I decided to attend and had the most exhilarating time, meeting other awarded authors and reviewers. I even got to speak to a reviewer who remembered my book and told me how much she enjoyed reading it. I'm still grinning. :)

Well, back to reality--must finish editing the sequel.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Book Review: The High Crusade by Poul Anderson

The High Crusade
Poul Anderson
192 pages
Science Fiction

In reading The High Crusade I returned to my first love—science fiction by one of my favorite sci-fi authors, Poul Anderson. To my absolute delight and surprise, this book satisfied a very recent love—historical fiction. Although the characters and settings are fictitious, Anderson captured the sense of the English medieval culture of the pre-plague, mid-fourteenth-century.

The highly advanced, interstellar Wersgorix send a scout ship to Earth to assess its suitability for a Wersgorix settlement. They would search out planets where they, the Wersgorix had superior technology and would quickly subjugate the natives, killing all who dared challenge them and enslaving the rest.

The Wersgorix had not counted on was to land on a planet so far removed from their sophisticated weaponry that they effectively had no defenses. They landed smack in the middle of war preparations for Edward III’s campaign against the French in the little English village of Ansby, led by Sir Roger, Baron de Tourneville. The English, armed and ready for war investigate the massive ship that lands in their midst. The alien defenses—effective against energy weapons similar to their own—are next to useless against arrows and steel. In short shrift, the English knights and yeomen penetrate the energy shields and kill all but one Wersgoran technician, suffering but a few killed and wounded themselves.

What follows is a wonderful romp where the entire town of Ansby, human and animal, take over the space ship intending to go to France to support King Edward III, but instead get transported to the last planet the Wersgorix had conquered.

Anderson seamlessly weaves the medieval culture, feudal system and warfare with a sci-fi setting for an altogether enjoyable read.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Are you a Dord?

Typos—we all make them, but some are more spectacular than others. Take dord—it’s supposed to mean density. Dord first appeared in Webster’s Third New International Dictionary for nearly all of the 1930s until an editor found it in February, 1939. It was supposed to be “D or d” but when it first went in, no one noticed there were supposed to be spaces separating the "d"s from the "or" (see The 7 Most Disastrous Typos of All Time article in

My friend told one of my favorite typo stories to me about a mechanically introduced typo that nearly cost her doctorate in psychology. This was pre-word processing and my friend hired someone to type her thesis on a typewriter that she rented. What she didn’t know was that the typewriter introduced a half space after every “e” in the text. The most egregious change was to transform “therapist” into “the rapist.”

“Unfortunately,” my friend had said, “that was often the truth.”

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Book review: My Splendid Concubine by Lloyd Lofthouse

My Splendid Concubine by Lloyd Lofthouse
Three Clover Press
Trade Paperback
250 pages
Historical Fiction

My Splendid Concubine by Lloyd Lofthouse is about Robert Hart. The bare facts are that in 1854, Hart left Ireland under a cloud for China to fill the role of interpreter for the British consulate. He immersed himself into the Chinese culture and learned the language and Chinese thinking so well that he was the first foreigner to become the Inspector General of China’s Customs Service. He lived in China for 54 years. Prior to the Cultural Revolution he became known as the “Godfather of China’s modernism.”

But those are merely the facts. Thankfully, Hart kept journals, many of which survive to this day. While researching Hart’s life, Lofthouse discovered that Hart kept a concubine with whom he had three children. To protect her and his children, he burned most of the journal entries concerning the love of his life. Fortunately for us, Lofthouse was able to piece together a lusty and poignant portrait of a conflicted and principled man who would not abandon his Chinese family no matter what the cost.

Rather than focus on what was already known about Hart, from his journals and official records, Lofthouse focused on Hart’s long-term affair with Ayaou, a boat-girl. Even most Chinese looked down upon the boat-people. He meets Ayaou and her sister, Shao-mei while escaping the oppressive summer heat of Ningpo to join his fellow country man, Patridge at his summerhouse on the western end of Zhoushan Island. Patridge had arranged to bring in eligible girls for concubines for his friends staying with him. Hart is immediately attracted to Ayaou and decides to buy her, but before he can do so, another of Patridge’s guests beats him to her. As you already know from my previous paragraph, Hart does eventually secure Ayaou, but you, dear reader, will have to read this book to find out how he does it and what happens to Ayaou and Shao-mei.

Lofthouse does a masterful job of not only presenting Hart and those he encountered as fully fleshed people, but also gives us a taste of how the Chinese think and what that culture is all about—an understanding that one can’t get from the news. And even though this story takes place in the nineteenth-century, I think much of the insight into the Chinese culture is relevant today.

The one fault that I have with this book is the denouement was far too abrupt. I kept flipping the last page, hoping that I really wasn’t at the end. The resolution was incomplete for me. Thankfully, the sequel, My Hart, promises to continue where this book left off. I will be reading it soon.

My Splendid Concubine received Honorable Mention in Fiction at the 2008 London Book Festival.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Thank You Google Books!

Four weeks ago, I railed against Google Books for removing the "search my library" feature. I also sent them a complaint and I wasn't very sanguine that they'd put it back. I was wrong. Even though this feature's appearance is somewhat altered, I can now search "my library."

To recap why I so desperately wanted it back: this feature allows me to search through my hard copy books electronically. To add a book to "my library", all I have to do is find the book in Google books and add it to "Bookshelves" (was "my library"). Once the book is on one of my bookshelves, I can go to "my library" and do a search for key words, for example, and all the books that I have that have these key words will be displayed. If the publisher has allowed Google Books to display a snippet view or limited view, then this can also be displayed. All public domain books allow full view.

Happy "my library" search everyone.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Bosworth Battlefield Site

It had been suspected for a long time that the battlefield site at Ambion Hill where the Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Visitor's Center is located, and the monument to where Richard III was slain, was not the actual site of Richard's final battle. Archeologists and historians have been investigating potential sites for several year and have revealed what they believe to be the actual site of the battle--about two and a half miles southwest of the Visitor's Center--based on finding evidence of a large medieval battle. Various objects found were buckles and strappings from armor, buckles, and most significantly, a boar badge of a quality that Richard III would have given to his closest lieutenants. See video clip and read article at BBC News.

Monday, February 8, 2010

I'll be doing a webcast Tuesday, Feb. 9

I will be a guest on Janet E. Smith's Internet Voices Radio show, Marketing for Fun and Profit on Tuesday, February 9, from 4:30 to 5:00pm (east coast time, US). In addition to talking about my novel, This Time (a story about Richard III in the 21st century), we will be discussing the challenges of marketing self published works without investing a lot of money to do so. You can listen at Internet Voices Radio either at the time of the webcast by selecting "Listen Live" or later by selecting "Listen On Demand". The show may be accessed for about a month following the webcast.

I met Janet on the Yahoo discussion group set up for the Independent Author's Guild and got to know her through her insightful comments on self publishing and marketing. She is one savvy self published author.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Major Rant: Google ruined the My Library feature

Google Books has a wonderful search tool that lets you find specific strings in books and they used to have that ability in the "My Library" feature. I loved being able to search my personal library for information where I didn't remember exactly the references where I had found it. (See my June 15,2009 post here.)

It looks completely different now where the books are strung out pictorially in some useless categories such as favorites, read, to be read, etc. instead of just listed with publishing information like they used to. I know what my books look like, I don't need a picture of the jacket.

I can still search the entire Google library and then sift through the hundreds of results for the ones that I've flagged as being in my library. However, there is no way for me to narrow my search choices down to the ones I have, instead of the millions that Google has catalogued.

Why did they have to go and "fix" something that wasn't broken?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Random Rant: Ad nauseam remakes

I settled in tonight to watch Masterpiece Theater Classic only to discover that it is yet another remake of Jane Austen’s Emma. As much as I love Jane Austen and enjoy Masterpiece Theater’s productions of her work, didn’t I see another version of Emma on Masterpiece Theater just last year? Aren’t there any other authors and other stories that Masterpiece Theater could produce?

Mystery seems to do the same with Agatha Christie's and Arthur Conan Doyle's works, but at least with these two authors, there are many more stories to choose from. Still, I do crave exposure to other authors.

I guess I shouldn’t complain too loudly, though. They could turn *shudder* Hollywood, and not only create endless remakes, but pick stories that aren’t nearly as good and then substitute CGI for good writing.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Review of Blue Bells of Scotland by Laura Vosika

In Blue Bells of Scotland, Laura Vosika spins a captivating tale that combines historical fiction with time travel and a bit of reverse alternate history cleverly woven in. Instead of changing the final outcome of an important historical event, Vosika changes the history at the start of the novel so that her time traveler changes it to what actually is. Although the grandfather paradox is mentioned, no consequences are shown for the changed history that the time travel generated such as people disappearing as if they never existed. The pacing flows from a measured cadence at the start of the tale and builds to a climatic crescendo reminiscent of Ravel’s Bolero.

Just before the 1314 Battle of Bannockburn, the two main characters, Shawn Kleiner, a twenty-first century classical trombonist who has rock-star fame, switches places with Niall Campbell, a fourteenth century lord, soldier, and harpist. Niall and Shawn are effectively clones, and so are seen by their peers to be the persons they were expected to be. One thing that often bothers me in time travel tales is how the time traveler is able to understand radically different versions of the same language. For example, in addition to Gaelic, Niall knew Middle English, which is not readily intelligible to Modern English speakers. Here is a sample from Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales:

Heere bigynneth The Knyghtes Tale

WHILOM, as olde stories tellen us,
Ther was a duc that highte Theseus;

Visually, this may be more understandable for us than if we heard it, because of the way pronunciations changed. In Monty Python and The Holy Grail, knight was pronounced ki-nig-it. This is probably the way knight was said then as one of the members of Monty Python, Terry Jones, is a medievalist. Vosika shows how Niall works through the language change in a believable way.

Vosika created a plausible background for both characters that allowed them to function—albeit awkwardly—in the others time. I was able to suspend my disbelief that these two men had these skills and were physically identical to each other. I particularly liked Shawn’s transformation from an arrogant womanizer who only thinks about himself and what people can do for him, to an unpretentious loyal friend—a man ready to lay down his life for a cause he believes in.

Perhaps the most important aspect of a story to me is that I become invested in the characters. Blue Bells of Scotland does not disappoint. Both Shawn and Niall are fully fleshed and I could imagine having a conversation with each. In addition to the two main characters, I feel I got to know and cared for Amy, Shawn’s lover. One negative in my mind is the author sprang a significant revelation about Amy where I did not see the behavior as consistent with her character. My apologies for being vague, but I do not want to introduce spoilers. One character that I would have like to have known better was Allene, a feisty, self-sufficient medieval noblewoman and Niall’s betrothed. I look forward to learning more about her in the second book.

Of some minor concern was that I thought the prose could have been tighter and I found a few typos. I soon forgot these as I became absorbed by the story. This is one book that I found hard to put down.

Even though this is only the first book, I found the ending sufficiently satisfying, giving me the patience to wait for the second of the trilogy. That said; write faster, Laura. I want to read more.

Blue Bells of Scotland may be purchase from